The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday, informed Justice Ismail Ijelu of a Lagos High Court, Ikeja, that it is opposing the intention of the Lagos State Government (LASG), to take over the prosecution of the Chairman of Ibeto Energy Development Company, Chief Cletus Ibeto.
This is even as the planned arraignment of Chief Ibeto, again, failed. With the development, this would be the fourth time Ibeto’s planned arraignment had failed, as the defendant again failed to appear before the judge.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Uche Obi, who appeared for the business mogul, hinted to Justice Ijelu that an issue of legal representation had arisen following moves by the office of the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to take over the prosecution of the case.
But counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) described the move as “an attempt to scuttle the trial.”
It would be recalled that the anti-graft agency had charged the defendant before the court alongside his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Ltd, on a 10-count bordering on allegations of conspiracy, fraud, forgery, and fraudulent use of documents.
But as a result of Ibeto’s failure to appear in court on four different occasions, Justice Ijelu at the last sitting of November 3, acceded to the request of the prosecution and issued a bench warrant against the defendant for allegedly refusing to appear to take his plea despite many undertakings by his lawyers to produce him in court.
This prompted Justice Ijelu to adjourn the case until December 5, for the arraignment of the defendant.
However, during the proceedings on the matter, the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Jide Martins, informed the court of a petition written by the law firm of another SAN, Robert Clarke, seeking a review of the case file and the outright takeover of the case by the office of the Attorney-General (AG).
The DPP further told the court that although the Ministry of Justice had written to the EFCC, requesting the case file, the AG, Lawal Pedro, SAN, had yet to decide on the issue.
As a result, the defence counsel, Obi, urged the court to adjourn the case until the issue of legal representation is resolved.